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8. Insights on Games Consoles....
...and all that jazz
HEALTH WARNING: This is a major article going over a number of pages and is not for the faint-hearted. However if you want to know about Games Consoles and Games, this is for you, so if you need a strong coffee or a Brandy first, here is your essential pre-shopping reading.
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Before reading, please be aware that this is my understanding of consoles and how they work. This is my work and doesn’t plagiarise anyone.

I have worked in the retail sector on and off for a very long time now and I’ve worked in shops throughout secondary school, college and university. I believe that I know what the industry has to offer me and most importantly, what the industry can offer you, the trusting public. When it comes to the world of video gaming, I can understand that the parents of today can feel quite out of touch, or perhaps confused about what exactly the world of gaming is. More importantly, what does this mean for your younger generation? Are these games okay to play? Do you as a parent have to buy everything they want? Do you know exactly what you are buying?

Well never fear!   As an avid gamer myself from a young age, I am here to help with my no nonsense guide to consoles and games. I suspect this will help for Christmas, so if your younglings try to get away with anything on their Christmas lists – you will know exactly what they are asking for, how much they will be and where to get these things from.

The consoles on offer these days mainly concentrate on role playing, and allow someone to be a character in a story for several hours. They will have to complete challenges, overcome obstacles and defeat certain puzzles to reach the goal of the game – no matter what that may be. Whether you play as a military commander in the Call of Duty series or as Mario the plumber in the Super Mario series – each game has something to offer people. I will explain more about the types of games available later – after I give you all a quick run-down on the consoles.

· For starters, if you have younger children and they want to start playing on consoles, try to determine what kinds of games they want to play. The reason being, that each console aims its game variety and accessories to different audiences.
· If you have children or young adults already playing on consoles who want another or more accessories for Christmas, determine what they are using to play on and go through what games they have already to see what they like playing. Again, I’ll explain about the games themselves a little later.

The Sony Playstation 3

This is the console I’m playing with at the moment, and I’ve always stuck with Sony when I’ve chosen my consoles. Playstations are primarily aimed at men between 14 and 35, but of course since I am not the right gender, almost anyone can play with them.
In my opinion gamers who choose the Playstation, like the campaign mode of games, but don’t hold me to that one. (Campaign = offline gaming mode where you can play through a story and complete the challenges by yourself)

The Playstation has a very large processor that is able to make the graphics onscreen look quite remarkable, although users have noted that with the games being released today – there isn’t much difference with the visuals. It all depends on how the manufacturer decides to use the console to its full potential.

All consoles share a large number of the games on the market today, but each of them has a few exclusive games. There are several reasons for this, the most important being if a consumer likes the look of a certain game, they will buy the console that runs it. For the Playstation 3, my favourite exclusive is the Uncharted series. It is pretty much Indiana Jones, but with a much more likable protagonist by the name of Nathan Drake. More about that later, but you get the picture. The point is that Uncharted can only be purchased with a Playstation 3, so this is another way to determine what console your youngling would like -  show them some exclusive games and buy the console that goes with it.

The Playstation 3 has an online marketplace dubbed the ‘PSN’. The wireless internet capabilities are pretty good and if your child wants, they can play with their chosen game online with other people, if they want to download demos of new games, if they want to chat online with friends, or even if they need some help with their current game – the PSN is a pretty useful thing to have.

The marketplace is free to use, as is going online to play games with friends. If you have a serious gamer on your hands, you are able to purchase a yearly membership for around forty quid to get extra treats like longer game demos, or free full games online to download. I don’t bother with the membership, but it might be good as a little present if the gamer in question already has a Playstation.

In stores you are also able to buy vouchers to use in the online marketplace. As I’ve said before, you can buy all sorts of things on the PSN, and if you don’t want your credit card details up there – it’s probably best to head into shops and purchase these little vouchers to save yourself some hassle. Good little stocking filler too.

The consoles themselves are complete when purchased but come in a variety of sizes of hard-drives. A gamer has to save their place in games, download things or add their own media like pictures or music – and all of these things need space on hard-drives. If your intended gamer doesn’t play that much or just wants the console as a novelty – you can try
the smaller hard-drive sizes e.g. 40gb, 60gb or 80gb. These are from the first generation of the Playstation back in 2006-8 – so the consoles will be the ‘fat’ versions. Internally there is no difference, however the 60gb versions are the most coveted. They unfortunately are no longer being manufactured as brand new from Sony and I have no idea as to the reason for this – but the 60gb versions are special if you can get hold of them. They can play Playstation 2 (predecessor) games too, they have more hardware inside them and other things that are slightly different. I purchased one myself back in the day, but unfortunately some pond dweller stole it from my room in Birmingham. If you have a serious gamer on your hands, they would probably like this model, but they can only be widely purchased online pre-owned, or I’d recommend going into a store like Game, Blockbuster or Gamestation to see what they can offer – which includes around a year’s guarantee for pre-owned products.

The newer models of the Playstation 3 are the 120gb, the 160gb and the 250gb slim designs. They boast more memory, a sleeker, slimmer design and an improved laser system to read Blu-ray technology. If you have a more serious gamer, try these models as these are pretty much the ones on sale in the shops brand new at the moment. They will also come as ‘bundles’ with more controllers, games and movies in their boxes. In my experience, all of these models will range between £100 to £300 pounds depending on what you choose or what your little gamers want.

In my experience, when I used a 60gb model Playstation 3, I could save 4 to 5 demos online, the saved data for 15 games, and the game data for around 10 games. If this doesn’t sound like enough space, go up in space – and in price. The choice is up to you, don’t let your intended gamers try to pull the wool over your eyes when it comes to quality per model. They are all the same in their basic mechanics and they don’t have to have the biggest and best one to have the experience they want.

In terms of accessories, determine how they are going to play their games. Online gamers will need a headset to communicate with other players, campaign gamers may need another controller to play offline with friends at their houses and make sure that inside the box you buy there is a little cable to charge the wireless controllers.  Sony are also the creators of the ‘Playstation move’ – a device that gamers can use to mimic their movements on screen with motion sensors. The motion sensors track any movement from the player and immerse them further into the game. Some games on the market today are specially made for the Move, but some games have a symbol on their cover to indicate that it has Move features. It’s pretty nifty and here it is in play:

The Playstation 3 is the only console that will play
high definition Blu-ray movies (awesome), so if your gamers want to play their games or watch their films in high definition – there are remote controls available to use them that way. Trying to teach my mum to use the controller to control watching a film was quite hilarious. Also – don’t forget the HDMI cable to stream pure HD pictures. Playstation 3 consoles can also stream internet television e.g. BBC iPplayer, ITV Player, YouTube and LoveFilm. They also stream some 3D games for those of you that have 3D televisions! Pretty nifty.

A Health Warning

The games themselves are a different matter. If your gamer wants games to go with their console – please be aware of the certificates they have been given. Most parents are not aware that games are just as bad, if not worse than films when it comes to violence, sexual images, swearing, drug use, killing encouragement and many other things. The player is often encouraged not just to watch, but participate in these things – so you must be vigilant when it comes to games they want to play.

I know that your kid may want the latest Call of Duty game because everyone else has it, but they are 18 certificates for a reason. I’ve seen 10 year olds dragging their parents into my shop to buy it, I advise against it, but the parent just wants to make their child happy. Please read up about the games your child wants online before purchase.

Games like the Grand Theft Auto series are brilliant to play when you’re old enough to understand the themes but it does contain and encourage prostitution, drug use, gang violence, mercenary killings, gun fights, beating up/running over innocent people on the streets, serious crime and extensive swearing. All fun and games but certainly not for everyone!

However, if you are alright letting them play with these games this is your prerogative.

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Fast links to Consoles covered in Penny’s article

Penny Glen Investigates